Many people have been taken aback by Chris Hedges' vehement and incendiary denunciation of "the Black Bloc anarchists" in his latest Truthdig effort titled "The Cancer in Occupy."
While Hedges has long been known for pulling no rhetorical punches when it comes to the High and the Mighty, the Ruling Elites, the Liberal Class, and so forth, this piece seems distinctly out of character for him.
As a rule, he does not attack the powerless, nor does he dispute the necessity for rebels and activists to "stand up, fight back." He has celebrated class warfare, the Greek riots, and the spirit of defiance and confrontation that permeates some of the overseas activism, rebellion, and in various places Revolution.
But if a bottle is thrown in New York -- by someone who was apparently dressed in black -- or someone wrote something years ago in a no longer published anarchist journal that was critical of Zapatistas, he has a very public meltdown over it.
Somehow, "the Black Bloc anarchists" got so deeply under his skin that he decided to lash out at them, hurling invective, smearing and denouncing them in a kind of hysterical overload that is wildly out of proportion to the actual presence of Black Bloc activism within the Occupy Movement.
It got people's attention, but to what object?
It doesn't even make rational sense. For example, Hedges claims that violent police crackdowns on Occupy encampments came "precisely because they were nonviolent."
And yet he and others make the contradictory claim that the police justified their violent crackdowns on Occupy encampments because of "the Black Bloc anarchists" and their supposed violence -- which is patently false.
He attacks a writer for an anarchist journal that's no longer published for criticizing the Zapatistas. He falsely asserts that Black Bloc is yet another of the innumerable Occupy Movement hijackers, yet he can point to no example of hijacking by Black Bloc -- in a Movement that was founded by anarchists.
Anarchists are the ones who made the intellectual and initial physical space for there to even BE an Occupy Movement.
He attacks anarchists and Black Bloc for making and deploying shields to protect themselves during the J28 actions in Oakland. He attacks them for incidents of vandalism in Oakland during last November's General Strike. He attacks them for being "feral." He attacks them with false claims that they looted in Oakland last November. He attacks them for being "criminals."
He attacks them for "hypermasculinity..." He laughably accuses them of "incohate rage." Has he ever seen or actually talked to anyone participating in the very, very rare Black Bloc actions associated with Occupy? "Hypermasculine?" "Incohate rage?" What a crock.
That's the kind of talk, though, that is permeating a portion of the so-called "Nonviolence" community, in what appears to be a coordinated national effort (under the rubric of a "national conversation") to purge the Occupy Movement of "the anarchists."
Attacks on "the Black Bloc anarchists" have been intensifying for weeks; the "national conversation" has largely been about how to suppress and get rid of them. The focus on Black Bloc (and the smearing of "the anarchists" that goes with it) is wildly out of proportion to their numbers and what they have actually done.
Hedges is in a dither because someone dressed in black threw a bottle in New York during a march in solidarity with Occupy Oakland. Black Bloc? Anarchist? Who knows, it doesn't matter to Hedges, he's hurling accusations. Someone threw a bottle, therefore there is a "cancer" in Occupy.
There were incidents of vandalism in Oakland last November. Therefore there is a "cancer" in Occupy.
Somebody burned a flag in front of the AP cameras in Oakland on J28: "cancer."
Shields were made and deployed by activists to protect themselves from police fire in Oakland on J28: "cancer."
Notice the focus on Oakland? Of course. Oakland is the center of energy for the Movement. It has easily the most militant Occupy community in the country. OO has succeeded in doing something very frightening to those in power: it has thoroughly de-legitimized the authority of city officials and their police protectors. Oakland's militancy has had a startling -- and very threatening -- success in discrediting and de-legitimizing the power structure of the city, as the recent absurdist confrontation over the sound system demonstrated.
The response from people like Hedges is telling: Occupy Oakland is violent, the anarchists and Black Bloc are destroying the Movement. They throw things. They are a "cancer."
What they do is stand up and fight back -- nonviolently. It's working. And that is terrifying to people like Chris Hedges.
Here's a somewhat densely reasoned unpacking of what Hedges is up to, posted at OLA Anti-Social Media which bills itself as:
an online black bloc against the Obstructionists, the Reformists, and the Liberals who have occupied the choke points of presumed power and leadership roles within our leaderless movement in order to further oppress marginalized voices, promote lies, and foist their own insidious agenda of abusive control upon OLA.It's sad that it has come to this. Perhaps it was inevitable, though.